Columbia Disaster, 15-Years Later

It’s a sight North-Texans will never forget, space shuttle Columbia breaking up in a fiery ball on a quiet weekend morning in 2003.

Former NBC 5 photojournalist James Lenamon was waiting for the shuttle to re-enter the atmosphere, setting up his camera near Burleson Elementary.

“It was a very clear day, very few clouds,” Lenamon said.

But as the shuttle came within view, something went wrong. Debris started to break loose and a single streak turned into many. Lenamon rolled on the entire event, not realizing until minutes later what had happened. NBC News later broke into national coverage, using Lenamon’s video of the explosion.

“It kind of sunk in to me that multiple people had just lost their lives and that is what I was going to be known for was filming that and I teared up for a bit and realized I still had to do my job,” said Lenamon.

All seven astronauts on board died within seconds, including Rick Husband and Kalpana Chawla, both from Texas.

NASA later discovered a faulty piece of foam insulation had broken loose, causing the accident.

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